I am writing for marketing client. Goal is to clearly define difference between the two terms. A BRAND (noun) is the collective set of perceptions existing about a company in the larger world. BRANDING is the actions a company takes to influence those perceptions. Is Branding simply a gerund in this case? That seems less, uh, active than the situation requires.

  • 1
    You apply branding to establish a brand. Mar 8, 2015 at 21:14
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    Yes. The tool is called a branding iron and its use is quite difficult and dangerous. The output of the iron is called the brand, and the process is called branding. Everything else is metaphoric use. Mar 8, 2015 at 21:43

4 Answers 4


In advertising marketing a brand is something you can point to such as a company and/or their product. Branding is about how you go about PROMOTING the brand by marketing and advertising.


Understand that "brand" originates from cattle branding and the like, where the owner's mark was burned into the hide of the animal.

The original meaning of "brand" in commerce was precisely this owner's mark -- a trademark emblem or phrase, applied to (printed on) all the products produced by the mark's owner. Thus Kellogg's prints a large, stylized "K" (or the stylized word "Kellogg's") on all of their breakfast cereal products -- that's their trademark or "brand".

This concept was then expanded to mean the "aura", as it were, surrounding the products bearing that brand. Eg, Chevrolet and Ford both attempted to produce impressions of their automobiles as being made for "real people", whereas Cadillac and Lincoln (brands, oddly, from the same companies producing Chevrolet and Ford) sought to produce impressions of luxury and exclusivity. These impressions became part of the conceptual "brands".

"Branding" (when not applied to livestock) thus means the development (or, often, fabrication out of thin air) of not just an emblem but the set of impressions that that brand is expected to represent.


You need to understand the differences between present participles, gerunds and verbal nouns: Gerund ending in -ings?.

In quick but less precise description
  1. participle = a verb inflected to be usable as a state/status descriptor.

    • She is running. She is painting the house. We are dying of hunger.
    • running/painting/dying describe the state/status of the subject perpetrating the verb.
    • The house is painted/haunted.
    • The painted/haunted house.
    • Her haunting the house is annoying the earth spirits. (Annoying describes the state of her haunting)
  2. gerund = name/noun of the process/activity implementing the verb.

    • Her haunting the house is annoying the earth spirits.
    • Her speaking mannerisms are very distracting.
    • White tigers are a dying breed.
    • Naming babies is a community ritual for both Jews and Catholics.
  3. verbal nouns are verbs that have been finalized into concrete nouns and can only be used as pure nouns.
    • The Mona Lisa is an entrancing painting.
    • Baby naming is a community ritual for both Jews and Catholics.

Therefore, you have to differentiate between the three modes of branding.

  1. Participle:
    • She is milking the cow.
    • He is posting new brands onto social networks.
    • She is branding the cow.
    • Quick, run to the elevator. They are branding the new products at the 4th floor meeting now.
  2. Gerund:
    • Her milking the cow is causing discomfort to the cow.
    • His job entails posting new brands onto social networks.
    • Her posting habits are a violation of corporate policies.
    • There is a branding meeting on the 4th floor, to determine marketing strategies and public profile of our new range of products.
  3. Verbal noun:
    • Have you read the latest marketing review posting?
    • Is our branding the cause of the slipping in market share of our brands. Are the strategies we employ on marketing the brands defective?
    • Branding is a monthly online digest published by the company.

The modern use of brand and branding is a metaphorical application of the practice of branding, that produced a distinguishing mark of ownership on grazing livestock:


2.0 An identifying mark burned on livestock or (especially in former times) criminals or slaves with a branding iron:


1.0 Mark with a branding iron:

In this metaphorical application, brand is clearly used as a noun :

1.2 A particular identity or image regarded as an asset:

Your brand is your most valuable asset!

Brand is also used as a verb in this metaphorical application:

1.1 Mark indelibly:

2.1 The promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design:

We must brand ourselves as the sole provider of a unique service.

The word branding can be complex, because as the progressive form of the verb brand, it can be used in four different ways:

  1. As a pure verb with the auxiliary to be:
  • Literal Application:

We are branding our cows down by the river.

We were branding his cows before they were quarantined.

We will be branding the calves as soon as they are weaned.

  • Metaphorical Application:

We are branding our new product actively on the market.

We were branding this new product until it was pulled from the market.

We will be branding their new product as soon as the prototype is ready.

  1. The gerund acquires noun functions while denoting the activity of the verb brand:
  • Literal Application:

Branding your heard discourages cattle rustling.

  • Metaphorical Application:

Branding a service is the key to a successful startup in this market.

  1. As a participle, branding functions as adjective (although some legitimately classify this as a noun adjunct using the gerund):
  • Literal Application:

His branding efforts paid off when we caught the thieves with his cattle.

  • Metaphorical Application:

Our branding strategy has been quite effective.

  1. As a deverbal noun it behaves completely like a noun:
  • Literal Application:

The branding of livestock has changed in the last century.

  • Metaphorical Application:

The branding of your product will be a challenge because of the broad competition.

The branding mark (noun: brand) is the outcome or product of branding activity (verb: brand) and they are inextricably connected in both the literal and the metaphorical application.


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